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omishev

helping the distracted child

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My 7yo daughter has a very hard time staying focused (schoolwork, chores etc). Her teachers have all commented on this and last year she routinely missed out on the educational games, free reading, and recess because she hadn't finished her seatwork. That is one reason we are homeschooling! She catches on quickly and is perfectly capable of doing the work, she just needs help staying on task. I have found she does well completing her work orally. She panics if I ask her to complete xyz on her own while I work with her brothers. Often for math I allow her to dictate to me and she does great. With new or difficult problems I walk her through the process but with others she can dictate each step to me or jump to the correct answer in her head. My question is am I helping or hurting her in the long run? I would eventually like her to be able to complete a few familiar problems on her own (stopping to ask me questions if needed) while I work with another child but right now she can't do anything unless I am working with her, not even if I am sitting right next to her but helping someone else. Any ideas strategies to help her? We haven't had luck with timers or something fun after she finishes.

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Should you revisit your curriculum choice?  Maybe another would be easier to complete independently?  We just had to switch our math because I also needed them to be able to work independently and I found that they could not do much of BA independently. 

I think she should be able to complete familiar problems independently both for her good and yours.  Do you suspect ADD or a LD?  I almost suspect she just wants more mommy time except you mentioned that she had the same issue at school.  

In what way does she panic?  Have you asked why she does it?

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does she have a learning disability? children with things like Dyslexia etc can have a hard time staying focused.

have you tried chewing gum? it stimulates the brain and aids in concentration. Classical musc playing in the background helps some children as well for the same reason.

what about fidget toys? I am trialing them with the twins at the moment. with fidget toys they can now stay in their seats  without having constant meltdowns. mostly the squishing type. According to the OT they are great for helping with fine motor development as well 

 have you tried a wobble cushion on the child's seat? it gives sensory feedback constantly to the child , great if you have a sensory seeker child. https://www.amazon.com.au/Bloodyrippa-Inflated-Stability-Exercise-Suitable/dp/B07NPF7C4M/ref=asc_df_B07NPF7C4M/?tag=googleshopdsk-22&linkCode=df0&hvadid=341772868930&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=3312501629251931642&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9071341&hvtargid=pla-675114756853&psc=1     sitting on a giant yoga ball instead of a seat can have the same results

Edited by Melissa in Australia

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I've homeschooled six kids past or up to the age of 7 and none of them could do more than one or two simple tasks without me there. Even with those one or two simple tasks, I needed to be near by or they wouldn't get done. My kids were just not ready at the age of 7 to do much of anything on their own but by 9 or 10 they were ready to begin working toward independent work.

Personally, I think your expectations might be a little too high for your 7 year old. Have you tried breaking the task down further for her? Instead of a few problems, maybe have her try one problem without you right there with her or even one step of a problem with you looking on and not helping? Then move toward more as she masters each little bit of independence. A 7 year old who can't or doesn't like independent work wouldn't bother me and yes, I've had to homeschool other children at the same time, my oldest 3 kids are stair steps so I've had a third grader just learning independence, a first grader and a kindergartner who were completely dependent upon me being present for the entire lesson and a toddler to boot. It's not easy but you can teach them all they need to know even if they need your full attention while they work for a while longer. My three little stairsteps are all grown up now and have been perfectly capable of independent work for years now. ;-)

You said she is a quick learner, does she need a lot of practice or is she the kind of student that once she has it, she is ready to move on to the next thing and can apply what she has previously learned? It's possible that she is so distracted because she's bored because she doesn't need all the practice to retain her lessons. I was that kid growing up and so is my second oldest daughter. I hated practicing things ad naseum when I already understood the concept and it made completing the work very tedious and difficult for me. I was ready for a new challenge, not more of the same work I could already do perfectly.

Just wanted to share some food for thought really. Every kid and every homeschool is different so of course, ymmv.

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For early years, full body had to be involved here.
Reading wasn't just reading.  Reading was moving letter tiles, crashing characters together, walking down a large sentence...
Math wasn't just math.  Math was blocks, jumping on number lines, working with a scale....

So on for every subject.  Narrations were mini-plays.  Memorization was paired with sign language and acting out the stanzas.  It was only as we got into it that we could work for short bursts "make 3 beautiful letters" or "write the answers on this large puzzle math sheet (6 numbers total)."  And we kept building from there.

I work with 7yos right now and have the same policy: as many of the senses as possible involved, and then we start working more towards our goal of plain seatwork.

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One thing that can't be stressed enough - no matter what, you meet the kid where they are.  If it's being highly distracted, you work together in 5 minute intensive blocks, and put the work away.  You get to comfortable before you inch forward out towards a new normal.  So spend a few weeks being intensively by her side.  Start removing your direct assistance by sitting there quietly while she does a single task.  Extend the time by a minute.  Excuse yourself to do X, like using the restroom, and come back to do intensive work as soon as you sit down again.  Eventually, you inch toward your new normal and you get there.

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I agree with HomeAgain. Another tactic I use with my kids when teaching independence is challenging them to complete something before I finish as task a little ways away from them. It really works well if your child has a competitive streak. For example, yesterday my 6yo (will be 7 in 3 mos) was working on some word work that he can complete without assistance with me just watching So I challenged him to finish the page before I finished washing the breakfast dishes. I was only 3 feet away but he completed it and I may or may not have taken more time than I actually needed to wash the dishes to help him feel successful on this first foray into independent school work. That's just part of my youngest son's personality though. I know he needs to feel successful at something to be able to encourage him to do even more the next time. I have an older child that would be totally insulted if he noticed that I wasn't actually racing and letting him win even when he was younger ds's age. Every kid is different and you need to find the tactics that motivate your particular child the best and if you have multiple kids, it is very likely that each one of them is motivated by something different.

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11 hours ago, parent said:

Should you revisit your curriculum choice?  Maybe another would be easier to complete independently?  We just had to switch our math because I also needed them to be able to work independently and I found that they could not do much of BA independently. 

I think she should be able to complete familiar problems independently both for her good and yours.  Do you suspect ADD or a LD?  I almost suspect she just wants more mommy time except you mentioned that she had the same issue at school.  

In what way does she panic?  Have you asked why she does it?

 

We do some Mammoth Math (with similar issues) and have Abeka sitting on the shelf. I do really like the deeper thinking required by Beast so I think it is worth using even if it is more teacher-intensive but I can give the Abeka a try. 

I do suspect she has ADD or .....something? I have not really looked into different LD much but since toddlerhood I have known she was different. She has always had a very short attention span compared to her peers and siblings and really struggles to play independently. She has never been one to play with toys for any length of time and is very prone to mischief. 

She starts hyperventilating and wailing "I can't, I can't, I can't" then when we do it together she has no trouble. I will talk to her about it at another time of day to see if she can explain her response. Thanks!

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6 hours ago, Melissa in Australia said:

does she have a learning disability? children with things like Dyslexia etc can have a hard time staying focused.

have you tried chewing gum? it stimulates the brain and aids in concentration. Classical musc playing in the background helps some children as well for the same reason.

what about fidget toys? I am trialing them with the twins at the moment. with fidget toys they can now stay in their seats  without having constant meltdowns. mostly the squishing type. According to the OT they are great for helping with fine motor development as well 

 have you tried a wobble cushion on the child's seat? it gives sensory feedback constantly to the child , great if you have a sensory seeker child. https://www.amazon.com.au/Bloodyrippa-Inflated-Stability-Exercise-Suitable/dp/B07NPF7C4M/ref=asc_df_B07NPF7C4M/?tag=googleshopdsk-22&linkCode=df0&hvadid=341772868930&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=3312501629251931642&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9071341&hvtargid=pla-675114756853&psc=1     sitting on a giant yoga ball instead of a seat can have the same results

She probably does have some sort of LD but we have not really looked into it. She was at private school and they weren't into testing/labeling and it has not been so severe that I have sought out testing. She loves gum but we rarely let her have it and also loves doing things with music on. I can't even read if there is music on so it baffles me that it could help someone who is already distracted but you are not the first one to tell me that! I have felt the same about fidget toys etc. I can see her loving it, she is always grabbing at anything in reach to play with while I teach. I have always discouraged that because it seems like yet another distraction but maybe that is the secret!

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10 hours ago, Mommyof1 said:

Is she a physically active child?

I would say yes. She has a hard time sitting still. She always gets up out of her seat for no reason in the middle of dinner and school. We do make sure to get outside or otherwise get a lot of exercise and that helps everyone. 

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31 minutes ago, omishev said:

She starts hyperventilating and wailing "I can't, I can't, I can't" then when we do it together she has no trouble. I will talk to her about it at another time of day to see if she can explain her response. Thanks!

DS was very much like that at that age. Pointing out the pattern helped:
Step 1, he looks at Big Page of Scary Questions.
Step 2, drama (I've been known to flail about a bit saying, "Oh, Mommy!" in imitation).
Step 3, after encouragement and possibly with a comforting hand on his arm, try the first problem.
Step 4, find out that it's actually quite familiar and easy.
Step 5, complete the entire page in six minutes.

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1 hour ago, omishev said:

 

We do some Mammoth Math (with similar issues) and have Abeka sitting on the shelf. I do really like the deeper thinking required by Beast so I think it is worth using even if it is more teacher-intensive but I can give the Abeka a try. 

I think both of these are straightforward and some of the best for independent work.   Abeka may be better because it has a lot of fun graphics whereas Math Mammoth is pretty stark and boring.  Maybe she finds a page full of problems intimidating.  Since you have Abeka, I would try it.  It may capture her interest.

I am using Abeka.  Part of the reason I did not go to Saxon or Math Mammoth when my kids were starting is because they were too boring.  We tried BA this summer and just returned to Abeka.  I have lately been giving them a little BA  (1 page occasionally) and it's less resisted and perhaps even a fun change.  I found that BA as a spine was not independent for my 7 (nearly 8 and 10 yr olds.

Edited by parent

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I would second the use of a 'Wobble Cushion'.
You could also try some music, where you might be surprised at the difference it makes?

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On October 3, 2019 at 9:47 AM, omishev said:

She probably does have some sort of LD but we have not really looked into it.

I guess I'm missing that. What you're describing is ADHD. Now she could have SLDs on top of that, sure. Nuts, there are even kids with some other global labels that would present this way at this age. So if you think there's an SLD, what SLD are you thinking? You'd definitely want to be connecting with appropriate materials if there's an SLD.

On October 3, 2019 at 9:51 AM, omishev said:

She always gets up out of her seat for no reason in the middle of dinner and school.

So would you attribute this to a need to move OR to a lack of sense of it being a group activity and that she should wait for the group and stay with the group?

On October 3, 2019 at 9:36 AM, omishev said:

since toddlerhood I have known she was different.

Different in what way? 

On October 3, 2019 at 9:36 AM, omishev said:

really struggles to play independently.

This concerns me, because it's not really an ADHD thing.

On October 3, 2019 at 9:47 AM, omishev said:

I have felt the same about fidget toys etc. I can see her loving it, she is always grabbing at anything in reach to play with while I teach. I have always discouraged that because it seems like yet another distraction but maybe that is the secret!

If I could suggest, there's something counter-intuitive about telling a young person not to problem solve when they're trying to self-advocate and problem solve. It's only a problem if the way they do it creates more problems. So yes, my ds benefits from having things to do with his hands while we work. The sensory input is calming. Theraputty, squares of loosely woven fabric where they can pull threads, chenille stems to twist, squeezy fidgets, twisty fidgets, anything she likes. Rotate them through, a different one each day, so she doesn't get bored. As long as they're played with nicely, it's fine.

On October 3, 2019 at 9:36 AM, omishev said:

She starts hyperventilating and wailing "I can't, I can't, I can't" then when we do it together she has no trouble.

How is her play if an adult plays with her? (not school work but play) And how is her play if a peer/age-mate plays with her? How is her play if you ask her to play independently for 5 minutes for a break using a small bin of something highly preferred?

On October 3, 2019 at 9:36 AM, omishev said:

I do suspect she has ADD or .....something?

Sigh. So on my first dc, I was really slow to try meds, really slow to do evals. I actually looked into them when she was 6, got the blow-off from a receptionist, and ended up not doing them till 11/12. Didn't start meds till 16. Looking back, we would have been better off with meds sooner, evals sooner. 

So the SLDs are reading, writing, math, and there's probably a nebulous LD not otherwise specified. But you're not describing a learning problem, kwim? She's doing fine with regular curriculum, yes? She reads on grade level, spells on grade level, and does math on grade level, yes? And instruction in those areas has been uneventful, yes?

What you're describing are attention issues, self-regulation issues, possibly anxiety, and social thinking deficits. So if you want to know how far they go, you can get evals, yes. But personally I would be looking for someone who specializes in those things, especially the social thinking and anxiety and emotional regulation, someone who will listen, spend time with her, spend time listening to your data, and help sort it out. 

There are some particularly good interventions for social thinking right now that I think could help you immediately. We Thinkers 1, from the Social Thinking.com people (Michelle Garcia Winner) would help the issues with how she's participating with the group. It would be interesting to see how far she would get with a short acting ADHD med and We Thinkers 1. That would tell you quite a bit about how far she can get with picking up the clue phone with basic level intervention.

On October 3, 2019 at 9:36 AM, omishev said:

She starts hyperventilating and wailing "I can't, I can't, I can't" then when we do it together she has no trouble. I will talk to her about it at another time of day to see if she can explain her response.

I don't know what kind of behaviors she's having during the day, but is this preceded by any rise in frustration? We talk about Zones of Regulation (you can google this, it's also published by the Social Thinking people) and so someone goes from Green Zone (good to go, ready to work), through the Yellow Zone (growing stress, losing control), to Red Zone. Would you consider this going yellow zone or even red? Or is it more like raising her voice to get attention? What would happen if you ignored the behavior or had a list of steps printed, pointed to the steps showing your expectation, and walked away? I'm not saying you SHOULD, just asking what would happen if you did? 

You might think through what the function is of the screaming and whether you're reinforcing it with your response. Here is a book to get you started.                                             Stop That Seemingly Senseless Behavior!: FBA-based Interventions for People with Autism (Topics in Autism)                                       I'm NOT saying she has autism. I'm saying she's a human and the behavior has a function and this extremely concise book is helpful for learning how to identify the functions of behaviors. It's inexpensive in kindle form, so you could download it this weekend and read. It might change how you work with her.

Personally, I would not reinforce someone asking for things in a way you do not want them asking. If she tries to get attention, access, etc. by YELLING, she does not get it, end of discussion. Your reply is "Sorry, I can't help you because you didn't ask in the way you've been taught, by _______________." You begin by teaching her how to ask. So you're not withholding the interaction or saying you won't support. You're just changing it back to YOUR TERMS so you are in control again. Right now, she yells, she gets what she wants, she is in control. And she's 7, yes? I'm still dealing with it and my ds is turning 11, lol.

And with time they learn and it becomes prettier. Like instead of a direct prompt, telling them what you expected, you're able to remind them or praise them. You can do it all day long, praising every time she asks in the way you've instructed. You can praise by differentials even. You can say "You asked so much more quietly, I'm happy to do that for you." And she may have still be LOUD, but if it was quieter than her previous WAILS, then you praise, kwim? It can be very positive. Reinforce what you want to get more of.

On October 3, 2019 at 9:51 AM, omishev said:

She always gets up out of her seat for no reason in the middle of dinner and school.

Sigh, there are things you can do for this. One, the ADHD meds. I would get her eval'ed pronto by a psych who is good for both ADHD and ASD in girls and get the ADHD question sorted out. That way you can do the meds and get that part easy. Then what remains is the social thinking part, the self-advocating, the ability to ask for breaks. When she gets up from school, does she LEAVE THE ROOM? Is she going to an agreed upon place? Is she using a break card or asking permission or telling you? None of this is about you (you, mom, how you're doing), but I'm just saying there's a gap there that you want to identify and can have tools for. It's something we've been working on with my ds for years. Does she leave the house without permission? Where does she go if she's frustrated? Have you made data to see how often she leaves the group during school (eloping) and what is going on before, how long she stays away, and whether she returns on her own? This is important data.

Are you working in a very open room? I tried and tried with my ds, and we finally gave up. My ds needs a room with a door. Now we made the room pretty awesome, with rugs and open space and calm colors and whatnot, but he really needs that environmental cue. We use break cards. We ask him to TELL us before he leaves the room. He can always take a break, but we'd like him to SAY he needs a break or POINT to the break card to make the request. 

There are a lot of strategies to deal with eloping. First though, just see if it's an issue, how frequently it's an issue, and what the data is saying about what was preceding (ie. why she needs a break, she was doing x and felt...) and how long the breaks are and whether the breaks are acceptable or not. (damaging property, leaving, getting into mischief as you said vs. playing nicely with toys or reading or another calming/regulating choice).

On October 3, 2019 at 9:36 AM, omishev said:

is very prone to mischief. 

in what way?

On October 2, 2019 at 8:39 PM, omishev said:

Any ideas strategies to help her? We haven't had luck with timers or something fun after she finishes.

Ok, so this is your basic behavioral stuff. You know a reinforcement is working when the target behavior increases. If the behavior you want to increase is not increasing, either the reinforcement was not reinforcing for that dc, or the target was not within reach. (or some combination) 

So the others suggested your expectations are not appropriate for the dc, and I guess the thing to sort through is whether it's that they're not appropriate for the *age* or appropriate for *her*. 

I don't know her, so any of us could identify things in her that are like our kids. You are describing a lot of what my ds was like at that age, and he has more than an ADHD label. My dd didn't exhibit the behaviors you describe. They seem kind of challenging and like they're requiring support. Do you think that if she *understood* some basic concepts (the expectation to ask for breaks, that we function as a group and should stay together as a group at meals, during school, etc.) she would understand? Or would there still be gaps? 

Sometimes the interventions are the same, but the amount of support needed to get there is higher. So you can have ADHD kids with some social thinking deficits, and you do the Social Thinking materials (like We Thinkers 1, she would be GREAT with this), and they just pick up the clue phone. You do Zones of Regulation with those kids, and again they pick up the clue phone and just start DOING it. They'll begin saying what zones they're in and using the tools! Especially with the ADHD meds. Straight ADHD with meds plus that intervention, and it can be pretty wow with like 6-8 weeks of intervention. 

Then there are the kids where you teach all that over and over and they just aren't picking up the clue phone. They don't have the self-awareness to do it for themselves yet. They require support. So the answers are still right (meds, instruction to help pick up the clue phone), but for some kids it's a longer process. And that's something that becomes apparent over time, with evals, etc.

On October 2, 2019 at 8:39 PM, omishev said:

She panics if I ask her to complete xyz on her own while I work with her brothers.

This is going to be very hard as your load increases. I'm just thinking about your upcoming baby and these challenges and having the other kids. Like I said, in my hindsight, doing it the 2nd time around, I'm WAY more aggressive about evals and meds and interventions. In this case, you would NOT be jumping the gun to want some help or be asking for answers. How is her play with other kids? Is she quirky or does she have odd habits or things she does repetitively? How is her narrative language and her ability to tell you about her day or about what happened in her play? How is her joint attention, ie. her referencing of you if she's in the pool swimming or doing an activity? What is her play with toys like? 

You have a lot of data, things you've seen, and you can connect the dots and probably figure out a lot. That can help you feel more confident in taking the next steps. 

Edited by PeterPan
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11 hours ago, PeterPan said:

I guess I'm missing that. What you're describing is ADHD. Now she could have SLDs on top of that, sure. Nuts, there are even kids with some other global labels that would present this way at this age. So if you think there's an SLD, what SLD are you thinking? You'd definitely want to be connecting with appropriate materials if there's an SLD.

So would you attribute this to a need to move OR to a lack of sense of it being a group activity and that she should wait for the group and stay with the group?

Different in what way? 

How is her play if an adult plays with her? (not school work but play) And how is her play if a peer/age-mate plays with her? How is her play if you ask her to play independently for 5 minutes for a break using a small bin of something highly preferred?

So the SLDs are reading, writing, math, and there's probably a nebulous LD not otherwise specified. But you're not describing a learning problem, kwim? She's doing fine with regular curriculum, yes? She reads on grade level, spells on grade level, and does math on grade level, yes? And instruction in those areas has been uneventful, yes?

I don't know what kind of behaviors she's having during the day, but is this preceded by any rise in frustration? We talk about Zones of Regulation (you can google this, it's also published by the Social Thinking people) and so someone goes from Green Zone (good to go, ready to work), through the Yellow Zone (growing stress, losing control), to Red Zone. Would you consider this going yellow zone or even red? Or is it more like raising her voice to get attention? What would happen if you ignored the behavior or had a list of steps printed, pointed to the steps showing your expectation, and walked away? I'm not saying you SHOULD, just asking what would happen if you did? 

When she gets up from school, does she LEAVE THE ROOM? Is she going to an agreed upon place? Is she using a break card or asking permission or telling you? None of this is about you (you, mom, how you're doing), but I'm just saying there's a gap there that you want to identify and can have tools for. It's something we've been working on with my ds for years. Does she leave the house without permission? Where does she go if she's frustrated? 

Are you working in a very open room? 

in what way?

 Do you think that if she *understood* some basic concepts (the expectation to ask for breaks, that we function as a group and should stay together as a group at meals, during school, etc.) she would understand? Or would there still be gaps? 

How is her play with other kids?

Wow, thank you! 

I suspect maybe dyslexia. She is still writing letters and numbers backwards, confuses b and d when reading and reads words backwards (reads "saw" as "was"). Her handwriting is poor. Last year she was out sick a few days and her class made her cards and I was floored by the amazing handwriting from all her classmates. I could actually read what the other kids wrote! Between the poor handwriting, backwards letters and lack of spacing between words I usually cannot read her writing. She is behind grade level for reading. Spelling was an absolute nightmare at school last year, she regularly scored in the 30s-50s and there were lots of tears during our practice times. We have not started it yet this year. She does well in math and is very bright with regards to remembering science concepts etc.

We do school in the dining room which is open with the kitchen. She might just get up from the table if something else in the room catches her eye, or lean over the table to give her brother some unwanted input on his work, or wander off to another room. I think she just gets bored. She doesn't get up and leave in the middle of a craft, just things like math or phonics. I don't think this was an issue at school but she may not feel like homeschooling is a group activity in the same sense. She isn't leaving when she is frustrated or upset. She might notice her nails are long and goes to trim them or sees the cat walk by and goes to pet her. I am happy to give her as many breaks as needed if she asks, but I would require her to finish the problem she is on. 

She has always had a very short attention span, wouldn't sit and play with toys for any length of time, is very curious, touches everything. She is the child that would sneak into the bathroom and make messes with toothpaste and toilet paper when she was supposed to be napping or play in the toilet while I was nursing the baby. I joke that I could leave the other kids home alone at any age and they wouldn't get into any trouble but I can't leave her unsupervised for a second. Now, she has made a lot of progress as she has gotten older but still needs a lot closer supervision than the other kids. She still doesn't play with toys much but she will sit and look at books or listen to audiobooks for rest time. Getting the cat last year has been great for her, this is the first time she has ever voluntarily played by herself at all. She will sometimes do weird things like dress the cat up or try to cut her fur but overall she gets into mischief less. 

She does well socially. She has friends, seems to fit in, and plays well with other kids.

The freaking out about her math worksheet being too hard/too long is just drama. She doesn't build up to it, there are no real tears and she can snap out of it.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and recommendations. I will look into the resources you suggested and check with my local homeschool group for recommendations on where to have her evaluated. 

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4 minutes ago, omishev said:

I suspect maybe dyslexia. She is still writing letters and numbers backwards, confuses b and d when reading and reads words backwards (reads "saw" as "was"). Her handwriting is poor. Last year she was out sick a few days and her class made her cards and I was floored by the amazing handwriting from all her classmates. I could actually read what the other kids wrote! Between the poor handwriting, backwards letters and lack of spacing between words I usually cannot read her writing. She is behind grade level for reading. Spelling was an absolute nightmare at school last year, she regularly scored in the 30s-50s and there were lots of tears during our practice times.

So what is your plan for this? Sometimes pediatricians will use old guidelines and suggest waiting till 3rd, but right now the IDA (dyslexia assoc) is saying to identify going into *1st* grade. So it would NOT be jumping the gun to go ahead and get evals. You can do this at a variety of pricepoints.

On October 3, 2019 at 9:47 AM, omishev said:

She was at private school and they weren't into testing/labeling and it has not been so severe that I have sought out testing.

Ok, so that's a choice. The private school was not legally required to provide testing, but under federal law you could get it through the ps. If you want free testing, that's how you get it. If you want to do it privately, you have a range of options. Given that she's also likely to get an ADHD diagnosis on top of learning disabilities, you'd like an eval through a psych who specializes in dyslexia and SLDs. This will give you IQ testing, achievement, a CTOPP, some tests for SLD writing (which she may also have, given the writing issues you described), and a report with recommended accommodations and interventions. There will probably be some things in there you aren't expecting, like scores for processing speed. Many people find as their kids age that the processing speed is a factor in how they work with their kids. When we had my dd tested, the neuropsych also ran testing for word retrieval. And some psychs and many SLPs will run narrative language testing. Since dyslexia is considered a language disability, getting testing by an SLP who specializes in dyslexia is another way to do this. Sometimes SLPs will work under a psych, so one report but full paper trail. SLPs are known for turning out very actionable information, so it can be a good way to go.

So your other trouble there is you haven't excluded vision problems. Technically dyslexia is NOT a vision problem, so you don't know to what extent she also has developmental vision problems, visual memory, convergence, poor working memory, etc. factoring in. To get a thorough vision exam, you would look for a developmental optometrist, which you find through COVD. 

This is the free student screening for Barton. https://bartonreading.com/students/#ss  It is NOT a dyslexia test, only a screener to make sure the student has the basic phonemic awareness and working memory skills to go into an OG-based intervention program. It takes about 15 minutes to administer, so you could do that and see what happens. 

Once she has had a baseline CTOPP (from a psych, SLP, reading tutor, anyone), then you can begin intervention. I would definitely get her eyes checked, just to make sure you aren't missing anything, and run tests (free online) for retained reflexes. 

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On 10/3/2019 at 9:36 AM, omishev said:

We do some Mammoth Math (with similar issues) and have Abeka sitting on the shelf. I do really like the deeper thinking required by Beast so I think it is worth using even if it is more teacher-intensive but I can give the Abeka a try. 

She starts hyperventilating and wailing "I can't, I can't, I can't" then when we do it together she has no trouble. I will talk to her about it at another time of day to see if she can explain her response. Thanks!

I agree with the things that Peter Pan has mentioned. I thought I'd tackle the math specifically since I've tried several of the options you mentioned (except the early BA stuff was not out early enough for my kids, and I wasn't going to start midstream, but I've looked it over pretty thoroughly). 

So, the trouble with independent work can be lots of things, but if you think she's fine with BA conceptually, she's well on her way, and it's probably attention or working memory/processing speed. Could she do BA level thinking independently if she had supporting hands-on materials to help her hold the concepts in her mind? It still wouldn't be independent in the way you mean, but if she can calculate with rods, base 10 flats, or some other manipulatives and then show you the answer with less stress, the problem could be that she just can't hold it well in working memory, and it distresses her. Working with you helps that in some way or at least signals to her to keep going when she feels like she's about to lose pieces of it. It makes some kids feel panicky to not know where their ideas went, and they are just poof, gone. Or jumbled if the ideas have to sit very long. 

Anyway, if she is good conceptually, I would offer a word of caution about A Beka--my older son used it K-2, and he could do math his instinctive, conceptual way, or he could follow all the nit-noity A Beka rules, but he could not do both. Also, he is very intuitive--he makes big conceptual leaps, and then he freaks out because he's not sure how he got there (well, he did at that age, no freaking out now), and then we had to go back and demonstrate how his intuition was correct by teaching steps. A Beka requires no intuition (or at least not in the increments his brain worked). For him, it was truly like, you just do the next correct step, and magically, the answer pops out. Now, for some kids, that incremental instruction is exactly what they need, but it was mind numbing for him. He literally turned off his brain to do it (and he was a good student--he got A's as long as he wasn't doing review work). I learned math with A Beka K-6th grade myself, and there was a lot of math I could DO without understanding why. So, a big caution there. You'll have plenty of people saying A Beka is great, and they are probably right too. 🙂 

MM is sort of boring, but it does reinforce intuition. Actually, the same kid that was losing his math intuition with A Beka has ADHD and ASD, and he found the A Beka materials to be way too overstimulating. YMMV on that--some kids need visual stimulation while others need the calm. (Fidgets work that way too--they either help or make it worse, and it often depends on the fidget itself.)

On 10/3/2019 at 9:51 AM, omishev said:

I would say yes. She has a hard time sitting still. She always gets up out of her seat for no reason in the middle of dinner and school. We do make sure to get outside or otherwise get a lot of exercise and that helps everyone. 

My worse kid for eloping has ADHD and dyslexia. Maturity and meds helped the most. Having a schoolroom with a door would've been helpful, but we didn't/don't. He would elope for the same kinds of thing, still does, just less frequently. There are times it's been so bad that we bought a baby gate and would put it in the doorway about chest height (if it was low, he'd just step over it mindlessly!!!). Sometimes it helps to keep things he might "need" within reach of the schoolbooks. So, he tends to get chilly, and we're making him a Warm Box with fingerless gloves, fuzzy socks, and a sweatshirt. If we can get him to keep it stocked, that should help. This is something you can make better, especially with meds, but it's more about containing and retraining it when you figure out some strategies. The other eloper in our home is an adult! His workplace requires moving around from room to room and changing tasks every few minutes, so it's reinforced and just gets worse and worse at home, lol! So, there are careers where some ADHD traits come in handy. I have been tempted to tag him with a GPS chip though...

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On 10/3/2019 at 6:47 AM, omishev said:

She probably does have some sort of LD but we have not really looked into it. ...  She loves gum but we rarely let her have it and also loves doing things with music on. I can't even read if there is music on so it baffles me that it could help someone who is already distracted but you are not the first one to tell me that! I have felt the same about fidget toys etc. I can see her loving it, she is always grabbing at anything in reach to play with while I teach. I have always discouraged that because it seems like yet another distraction but maybe that is the secret!


Many children NEED sensory input or movement in order to focus, concentrate, and process. -- it is not a distraction, but a way of "self-medicating" when they are deficient on the brain chemicals need for focused processing. Fidgeting in certain ways provides them, through the stimulation of the fidgeting, with the brain chemicals needed for focus.

There are "chewy" fidgets (plastic necklace for oral stimulation to help with focus), and there are finger fidgets (esp. good for helping to focus while listening to read alouds or instructions -- that was definitely my DS#2). There are also movement aids -- disks that allow swinging back and forth on the seat, or large band around the chair legs for feet to fidget with. (DS#2 would lay upside down on the couch and flip the window curtains with his grubby bare feet (sigh), and as a result, could answer every comprehension -- and "deeper thinking" -- question about what we were reading.) Many kids do better with a full body movement to aid focus -- sitting on a yoga ball and doing seat work at a coffee table, or standing up and doing seat work at a kitchen table or counter so they can jig and dance about with their legs and body while working.

re: listening to music while working
In the high school years, my ADD/distractible DS#2 could concentrate on school work much better when wearing ear buds and listening to music. So that is something that can help. We found that the Callirobics program (listen to music while practicing the curves, loops, and lines needed for handwriting) was a big help.

Other "hand" fidgets might be coloring a page related to your history, working with clay (maybe making something related to the reading), playing with pipe cleaners (also called "chenille stems") or an old necklace chain, having a plushy soft toy or a silky scarf to hold/fidget with, a bean bag or "koosh ball" or stress ball to squeeze, etc.
 

In addition to allowing/encouraging fidgets, we did things similarly to HomeAgain -- short, (like 10 minute) bursts of highly focused work together, then a quick break for vigorous jump roping, hop scotching, trampoline jumping, running to the corner and back, putting on a fast song and dancing all out for the song, or bouncing up and down the hall repeatedly for 5 minutes on one of the big bouncy balls with a handle. Then another short burst of focused school work of a different kind, and then another quick break.

Also, if she struggles with handwriting or sitting still and writing for very long at a time, doing some things (spelling, grammar, even some math) largely orally can help. That allowed our DS#2 who struggled hugely with handwriting (as well as math, spelling, and writing) to just focus on the skill that needed to be learned at that moment (math, or grammar), and not have the issues with handwriting compete for his limited brain energy.

Until you can get some more thorough evaluations and see if meds might be a help, right now, that means YOU adapting your schedule to find a way of sitting right with her. It can help YOU keep your sanity to realize that she is not doing this on purpose or to be annoying, but that her brain and body can not self-regulate and focus without some helps. And, you want to "pick your battles" carefully -- if you can't do all the schoolwork right beside her, then do together the core subjects (reading and math, and eventually writing), and let the non-core subjects (science, history, etc.) come through educational videos while she bounces and dances all over the living room while watching. Or through educational computer games, if those hold her attention. Or through hands-on self-exploration through science kits. Or family field trips to museums, nature walks, etc. 

If you are very averse to meds, then do some deep research on things like melatonin (to make sure she's getting restful sleep), a high quality fish oil (to help with focus/concentration), or evening primrose oil (absorbed through the skin) to help boost essential fatty acids in the brain. Here are 2 short articles from Dianne Craft's website and Daniel Amen's website to get you started.

Edited by Lori D.
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On 10/3/2019 at 9:07 AM, sweet2ndchance said:

I agree with HomeAgain. Another tactic I use with my kids when teaching independence is challenging them to complete something before I finish as task a little ways away from them. It really works well if your child has a competitive streak. For example, yesterday my 6yo (will be 7 in 3 mos) was working on some word work that he can complete without assistance with me just watching So I challenged him to finish the page before I finished washing the breakfast dishes. I was only 3 feet away but he completed it and I may or may not have taken more time than I actually needed to wash the dishes

This 100%! We started by me occasionally needing to step away for just a minute to use the bathroom or a trip to the kitchen to get us both a drink. Then we progressed to being within sight of each other while we raced to see if I could do dishes or make lunch faster than he did a math problem or speed drill or some other quick lesson before moving on to longer less supervised lessons. Sometimes to help hold his focus, I'd give him short spelling assignments and have him do them with bananagrams rather than writing his answers and see if he could beat me while I folded laundry in the next room. If he won, we'd play a math game or tic tac toe for 5 minutes immediately after as a reward him for staying on task.

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On 10/2/2019 at 11:40 PM, Melissa in Australia said:

does she have a learning disability? children with things like Dyslexia etc can have a hard time staying focused.

 

Also children with ADHD (which I didn't think my son had because he wasn't hyperactive...but a child can have just attentive ADHD). 

Also, SOME kids just find it easier to do work if there is someone else present, even if they aren't really "helping" with the work.   Present, but not distracting.   So, I can be in a room and be quietly cleaning and my son does fine doing his work.   I'm near if he needs me, but not distracting him (I couldn't teach another child, which makes noise, or be doing anything intersting...but I can type on message boards like this or clean or listen to a podcast while he works independently).  

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one thing we are trying with success with my twins at the moment  is instant positive rewards for them staying in their seat. Their Play-therapist/psychologist recommended it. 

before twin 2 in particular but both would just get up and walk off. they would be doing this every 5 minutes or so. (I sit between them when they are doing their schoolwork.). if I had to briefly leave the room to go to the toilet they would both leave and start the most ridiculous un-regulated attention seeking behaviour - like trying to swing from the curtains, throw objects around etc .

 What we are doing now is I have some choc chips. if they can stay in their seats when I go to the toilet they get one. if they are doing work and staying in their seats they will get a bonus one.  ( a bit like training dogs or dolphins). It is working. In the beginning they would just rush back to their seats when they heard me coming back, then it progressed to them sitting in their seats but being silly, to sitting in their seats being silly until they heard me coming then quickly  writing one letter  when they heard me coming back. To now where I can go to the toilet and they will be having a go at continuing their work. This has take about 6 weeks so pretty fast progress for them.

What we have being trying for not walking off while doing their lessons while I am sitting beside them is they each  have a favorite sensory toy that only comes out for school work. it is a very shy little critter and if you leave the desk it runs away and doesn't come back until tomorrow. 

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7 hours ago, Lori D. said:


Many children NEED sensory input or movement in order to focus, concentrate, and process. -- it is not a distraction, but a way of "self-medicating" when they are deficient on the brain chemicals need for focused processing. Fidgeting in certain ways provides them, through the stimulation of the fidgeting, with the brain chemicals needed for focus.

There are "chewy" fidgets (plastic necklace for oral stimulation to help with focus), and there are finger fidgets (esp. good for helping to focus while listening to read alouds or instructions -- that was definitely my DS#2). There are also movement aids -- disks that allow swinging back and forth on the seat, or large band around the chair legs for feet to fidget with. (DS#2 would lay upside down on the couch and flip the window curtains with his grubby bare feet (sigh), and as a result, could answer every comprehension -- and "deeper thinking" -- question about what we were reading.) Many kids do better with a full body movement to aid focus -- sitting on a yoga ball and doing seat work at a coffee table, or standing up and doing seat work at a kitchen table or counter so they can jig and dance about with their legs and body while working.

re: listening to music while working
In the high school years, my ADD/distractible DS#2 could concentrate on school work much better when wearing ear buds and listening to music. So that is something that can help. We found that the Callirobics program (listen to music while practicing the curves, loops, and lines needed for handwriting) was a big help.

Other "hand" fidgets might be coloring a page related to your history, working with clay (maybe making something related to the reading), playing with pipe cleaners (also called "chenille stems") or an old necklace chain, having a plushy soft toy or a silky scarf to hold/fidget with, a bean bag or "koosh ball" or stress ball to squeeze, etc.
 

In addition to allowing/encouraging fidgets, we did things similarly to HomeAgain -- short, (like 10 minute) bursts of highly focused work together, then a quick break for vigorous jump roping, hop scotching, trampoline jumping, running to the corner and back, putting on a fast song and dancing all out for the song, or bouncing up and down the hall repeatedly for 5 minutes on one of the big bouncy balls with a handle. Then another short burst of focused school work of a different kind, and then another quick break. Also, if she struggles with handwriting or sitting still and writing for very long at a time, doing some things (spelling, grammar, even some math) largely orally can help.

Until you can get some more thorough evaluations and see if meds might be a help, right now, that means YOU adapting your schedule to find a way of sitting right with her. It can help YOU keep your sanity to realize that she is not doing this on purpose or to be annoying, but that her brain and body can not self-regulate and focus without some helps. And, you want to "pick your battles" carefully -- if you can't do all the schoolwork right beside her, then do together the core subjects (reading and math, and eventually writing), and let the non-core subjects (science, history, etc.) come through educational videos while she bounces and dances all over the living room while watching. Or through educational computer games, if those hold her attention. Or through hands-on self-exploration through science kits. Or family field trips to museums, nature walks, etc. 

If you are very averse to meds, then do some deep research on things like melatonin (to make sure she's getting restful sleep), a high quality fish oil (to help with focus/concentration), or evening primrose oil (absorbed through the skin) to help boost essential fatty acids in the brain. Here are 2 short articles from Dianne Craft's website and Daniel Amen's website to get you started.

we have found the bolded doesn't work for us as my boys are unable to bring themselves back to sitting still afterwards. 

it is a matter of trying out a huge amount of things until you find what works for your particular child.  we do all of the other things that Lori is suggesting except the medication

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15 minutes ago, Melissa in Australia said:

...What we are doing now is I have some choc chips. if they can stay in their seats when I go to the toilet they get one. if they are doing work and staying in their seats they will get a bonus one.  ( a bit like training dogs or dolphins). It is working...
... each have a favorite sensory toy that only comes out for school work. it is a very shy little critter and if you leave the desk it runs away and doesn't come back until tomorrow...


lol -- you're right, this is almost *exactly* the same training method our puppy raising group uses in training the Guide Dogs for the Blind puppies for staying at a designated spot. So excited to hear you are getting some good progress with your twins! 😄

And I *love* the shy sensory toy! 😄


Original Poster -- I thought of another thing that was helpful for our distractible DS#2 (actually, for both DSs) -- and that was to have a protein snack mid-morning. So, cheese sticks, or a turkey roll-up, or a handful of trail mix with nuts in it, or a spoonful of peanut butter spread of something, or humus and crackers. Re-fueling the brain partway into the school time really helped with preventing blood sugar drops or hunger meltdowns, and the the protein helped to keep up the focus as a longer-lasting, steady brain fuel. (Doing snacks with just carbs and fruit sugars caused spikes and crashes.)

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I forgot that in addition to having a good breakfast, about an hour into our school day, I began giving a "snack cup." Remember those little plastic toddler cups with the no spill lid? I removed the lid and lo and behold, they hold an amazing amount of food! I stand up an assortment of carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, apple slices, brick cheese sticks, and a small handful of cashews or trail mix all inside this one little cup. I guess in a way it acts like a fidget but with food!

Edited by Servant4Christ
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Just food for thought...

At my house, many of my kids' issues that could be attributed to dyslexia, dysgraphia or learning disabilities, are all actually symptoms of their ADHD. 

For example, when my second son was diagnosed at age 6, he was not reading at all.  Now, obviously, this did not make him so, so far "behind" seeing as he was only 6, but he was really struggling to make progress with pre-reading and simple phonics.  Once he began taking ADHD medication, his reading level increased by two grade levels in a month.  I think it was a combination of all the issues that the meds mitigated - he could focus better and longer, he could track his eyes across a page without them darting all over, he suddenly enjoyed sitting and free reading which meant he was getting a lot more practice every day.

On a daily basis, I have multiple opportunities to see all three of my boys both on and off their medications.  The differences are striking.  Off medication their handwriting is nearly indecipherable.  Off medication they struggle with even simple, one-step math problems that they could answer in a heart beat when medicated.  Off medication they don't enjoy reading, and certainly don't remember what they read.  Off medication they struggle to play or do art or follow directions in gym class.  Off medication they are impulsive and easily irritated.  Off medication they lose and misplace things CONSTANTLY.  Off medication they drop several levels of piano playing skills.

Now I'm not saying that their medication is an absolute silver bullet that turns them into little perfectly behaved angels...no.  But, it truly does positively impact every aspect of their lives.  Even now, after having them on medication for many years, I am still sometimes taken aback at the skills they lose when the medication wears off.  And it's not that the medication is giving them those skills, but rather that I have worked very hard to teach them the skills, and the medication allows them to apply those skills and behaviors in positive, functional, beneficial ways.

Wendy

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6 hours ago, wendyroo said:

Just food for thought...

At my house, many of my kids' issues that could be attributed to dyslexia, dysgraphia or learning disabilities, are all actually symptoms of their ADHD. 

For example, when my second son was diagnosed at age 6, he was not reading at all.  Now, obviously, this did not make him so, so far "behind" seeing as he was only 6, but he was really struggling to make progress with pre-reading and simple phonics.  Once he began taking ADHD medication, his reading level increased by two grade levels in a month.  I think it was a combination of all the issues that the meds mitigated - he could focus better and longer, he could track his eyes across a page without them darting all over, he suddenly enjoyed sitting and free reading which meant he was getting a lot more practice every day.

On a daily basis, I have multiple opportunities to see all three of my boys both on and off their medications.  The differences are striking.  Off medication their handwriting is nearly indecipherable.  Off medication they struggle with even simple, one-step math problems that they could answer in a heart beat when medicated.  Off medication they don't enjoy reading, and certainly don't remember what they read.  Off medication they struggle to play or do art or follow directions in gym class.  Off medication they are impulsive and easily irritated.  Off medication they lose and misplace things CONSTANTLY.  Off medication they drop several levels of piano playing skills.

Now I'm not saying that their medication is an absolute silver bullet that turns them into little perfectly behaved angels...no.  But, it truly does positively impact every aspect of their lives.  Even now, after having them on medication for many years, I am still sometimes taken aback at the skills they lose when the medication wears off.  And it's not that the medication is giving them those skills, but rather that I have worked very hard to teach them the skills, and the medication allows them to apply those skills and behaviors in positive, functional, beneficial ways.

Wendy

you almost convince me to try medication

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1 hour ago, Melissa in Australia said:

you almost convince me to try medication

I don't want it to sound like it was an easy decision for us or has been a smooth journey from the beginning.  Along with ADHD, my oldest has ASD and anxiety, which made it very difficult to find an effective medication; we went through 9 different medication trials over the course of a year before we found one that worked. 

Every time we faced trying yet another new medication, I would start to question whether that was the right decision for DS.  And every time I would look deep into my soul and confirm that I was indeed doing what I thought was in DS's best interest.  We were not trying to medicate him so that he could conveniently sit still at a desk all day - he was a homeschooled 6 year old, there was no real reason for him to sit still often or for very long.  No, we were trying to medicate him to allow him to experience life and be able to participate in his childhood.

When my kids are unmedicated, they can't successfully play with peers.  They can't make mud pies or construct cities out of blocks.  They can't safely ride a bike along a sidewalk because they can't focus on watching where they are going.  They can't listen to read alouds or successfully help make cookies.  They are constantly hurting themselves by literally running into walls and hurting each other by impulsively hitting and kicking.

It was a hard road finding a medication that worked, but once we got over that hurdle, there has never been any question in our minds as to whether this is the right path for the boys.  One of the biggest factors for us is that the boys like what they can do on medication.  They like being able to focus and plan and remember.  They like being able to play elaborate pretend games.  They like being able to read funny books and do puzzles and ride their bikes around the block.  They are more confident on medication...and that is worth a lot to me.

Wendy

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I will add to @wendyroo's comments and say that as my kids have aged with some success under their belts that have come because of meds, they now expect success. If the miss a dose until too late in the day to take it, they might still not be as successful as with meds, but they know how it should be and can bridge the gap somewhat with strategies they honed while taking meds.

It's not an overnight benefit, and it's not guaranteed, but it has happened with my kids. 

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3 minutes ago, kbutton said:

I will add to @wendyroo's comments and say that as my kids have aged with some success under their belts that have come because of meds, they now expect success. If the miss a dose until too late in the day to take it, they might still not be as successful as with meds, but they know how it should be and can bridge the gap somewhat with strategies they honed while taking meds.

It's not an overnight benefit, and it's not guaranteed, but it has happened with my kids. 

I would love it if my boys could get to that point some day.

We aren't there yet, BUT I have started to see a precursor.  The other day, Elliot suggested playing a board game in the afternoon, and Peter said that he was worried they would not be able to play well that late in the afternoon.  He now knows what successfully playing a board game looks and feels like, and he could judge that he was not calm enough or able to focus enough at that time of day to play successfully.

Other times Peter has been doing school work at times when he was almost due for another dose of meds.  He has been able to recognize when he started just spinning his wheels and being distracted by every dust mote in the air.  He isn't yet to the point that he can "fake it 'til he makes it" (aka pull it together on his own until his next dose of meds kick in), but he was able to stop the downward spiral and change to a less demanding activity until his medicine was fully in effect.

Wendy

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1 minute ago, wendyroo said:

I would love it if my boys could get to that point some day.

We aren't there yet, BUT I have started to see a precursor.  The other day, Elliot suggested playing a board game in the afternoon, and Peter said that he was worried they would not be able to play well that late in the afternoon.  He now knows what successfully playing a board game looks and feels like, and he could judge that he was not calm enough or able to focus enough at that time of day to play successfully.

Other times Peter has been doing school work at times when he was almost due for another dose of meds.  He has been able to recognize when he started just spinning his wheels and being distracted by every dust mote in the air.  He isn't yet to the point that he can "fake it 'til he makes it" (aka pull it together on his own until his next dose of meds kick in), but he was able to stop the downward spiral and change to a less demanding activity until his medicine was fully in effect.

Wendy

Yay!!! That's progress! Sometimes, that's all my kids can do too, and that is definitely how they started being able to pull off a certain amount of unmedicated regulation. I am so pleased for them and for you!

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